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June 16, 2009, 4:56 AM CT

Why do we choose our mates?

Why do we choose our mates?
Charles Darwin wrote about it 150 years ago: animals don't pick their mates by pure chance it's a process that is deliberate and involves numerous factors. After decades of examining his work, experts agree that he pretty much scored a scientific bullseye, but a very big question is, "What have we learned since then?" asks a Texas A&M University biologist who has studied Darwin's theories.

Adam Jones, an evolutional biologist who has studied Darwin's work for years, says that Darwin's beliefs about the choice of mates and sexual selection being beyond mere chance have been proven correct, as stated in Darwin's landmark book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. His work has withstood decades of analysis and scrutiny, as Jones states in his paper, "Mate Choice and Sexual Selection: What Have We Learned Since Darwin?" in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Bottom line: It's no accident that certain peahens submit to gloriously-colored male peacocks, that lions get the females of their choice or that humans spend hours primping to catch the perfect spouses it's a condition that is ingrained into all creatures and a conscious "choice" is made between the two so the romantic fireworks can begin.

Jones says Darwin set the standard for original thinking about animal reproduction and was first scientist to propose plausible mechanisms of evolution, and from there he took it one step further he confirmed that animals' mating choices can drive evolutionary change.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


June 12, 2009, 5:24 AM CT

Why smoking increases the risk of heart disease and strokes?

Why smoking increases the risk of heart disease and strokes?
Scientists at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles and Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona have discovered a reason why smoking increases the risk of heart disease and strokes.

The study, which will be presented Thursday, June 11 at The Endocrine Society's 91st annual meeting in Washington, D.C., observed that nicotine in cigarettes promotes insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that raises blood sugar levels higher than normal. People with pre-diabetes are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Theodore Friedman, MD, Ph.D., chief of the endocrinology division at Charles Drew University, said the findings help explain a "paradox" that links smoking to heart disease.

Smokers experience a high degree of cardiovascular deaths, Friedman said. "This is surprising considering both smoking and nicotine may cause weight loss and weight loss should protect against cardiovascular disease".

The scientists studied the effects of twice-daily injections of nicotine on 24 adult mice over two weeks. The nicotine-injected mice ate less food, lost weight and had less fat than control mice that received injections without nicotine.

"Our results in mice show that nicotine administration leads to both weight loss and decreased food intake," Friedman said. "Mice exposed to nicotine have less fat. In spite of this, mice have abnormal glucose tolerance and are insulin resistant (pre-diabetes)."........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 12, 2009, 5:22 AM CT

Gene therapy technique for cancer by cutting off blood supply

Gene therapy technique for cancer by cutting off blood supply
University of Florida scientists have come up with a new gene treatment method to disrupt cancer growth by using a synthetic protein to induce blood clotting that cuts off a tumor's blood and nutrient supply.

In mice implanted with human colorectal cancer cells, tumor volume decreased 53 percent and cancer cell growth slowed by 49 percent in those treated with a gene that encodes for the artificial protein, compared with those that were untreated.

The research team, led by Dr. Bradley S. Fletcher, an assistant professor of pharmacology and therapeutics in the College of Medicine, created the so-called fusion protein to target another protein called tumor endothelial marker 8, or TEM8, which was recently found to be preferentially expressed in the inner lining of tumor vessels. Such differences in protein expression enable delivery of drug molecules to the cells that harbor these proteins.

"The protein we created did a very good job of homing to the tumor and binding," said Stephen Fernando, who recently completed his doctoral studies. "By targeting TEM8, we can potentially create a treatment against cancer".

The Fletcher group is the first to target cancer cells through protein binding to TEM8. The findings, now available online, are featured on the cover of the June 15 edition of Cancer Research........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


June 12, 2009, 5:20 AM CT

Simple chemical system that mimics DNA

Simple chemical system that mimics DNA
A team of Scripps Research researchers has created a new analog to DNA that assembles and disassembles itself without the need for enzymes. Because the new system comprises components that might reasonably be expected in a primordial world, the new chemical system could answer questions about how life could emerge.

The work, published in the June 11, 2009 issue of Science Express, an advance, online publication of the journal Science, might also be a starting point on the way to exotic new materials that repair themselves or transform in response to their environment.

Researchers are both bemused and fascinated by the question of how life could have arisen on Earth. One of the most prominent theories is that, before the emergence of DNA, the earliest forms of life used RNA to transmit their genetic codes. The late Leslie Orgel, a co-author of the new paper, first suggested this idea, known as the "RNA World".

One of the theory's challenges is that RNA is still so complex that a number of scientists believer something still simpler must have preceded it. "I have been working for years to learn what replicators and genetic systems might have come before the advent of the RNA World," says team leader of the new research Professor Reza Ghadiri, a Scripps Research chemist.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


June 12, 2009, 5:19 AM CT

Fingerprints do not improve grip friction

Fingerprints do not improve grip friction
Fingerprints mark us out as individuals and leave telltale signs of our presence on every object that we touch, but what are fingerprints really for? As per Roland Ennos, from the University of Manchester, other primates and tree-climbing koalas have fingerprints and some South American monkeys have ridged pads on their tree-gripping tails, so everyone presumed that fingerprints are there to help us hang onto objects that we grasp. This theory that fingerprints increase friction between the skin and whatever we grab onto has been around for over 100 years, but no one had directly tested the idea. Having already figured out why we have fingernails, Ennos was keen to find out whether fingerprints improve our grip, so he recruited Manchester undergraduate Peter Warman to test out fingerprint friction and publishes his results on June 12 2009 in the Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.org.

Because the friction between two solid materials is commonly correlation to the force of one of the materials pressing against the other, Ennos and Warman had to find a way of pushing a piece of acrylic glass (Perspex) against Warman's finger before pulling the Perspex along the student's finger to measure the amount of friction between the two. Ennos designed a system that could produce forces ranging from a gentle touch to a tight grip, and then Warman strapped his index finger into the machine to begin measuring his fingerprint's friction.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


June 11, 2009, 5:15 AM CT

What causes multiple sclerosis?

What causes multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a very complex disease of the nervous system. Thanks to the development of the new animal model, significantly improved insights into its emergence and progress are now possible.

Credit: Image: Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology
Over 100,000 people suffer from multiple sclerosis in Gera number of alone. Despite intensive research, the factors that trigger the disease and influence its progress remain unclear. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and an international research team have succeeded in attaining three important new insights into the disease. It would appear that B cells play an unexpected role in the spontaneous development of multiple sclerosis and that especially aggressive T cells are activated by different proteins. Furthermore, a new animal model is helping the researchers to understand the emergence of the most common form of the disease in Gera number of. (Nature Medicine, May 31, 2009 & Journal of Experimental Medicine, June 1, 2009).

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) poses enormous problems for both patients and doctors: it is the most common inflammatory disease of the central nervous system in our part of the world and often strikes patients at a relatively young age. In some patients it leads to severe disability. Moreover, despite decades of research on MS, the causes and course of the disease are still largely unclear.

There is much evidence to support the fact that MS is triggered by an autoimmune reaction: immune cells that should actually protect the body against threats like viruses, bacteria and tumours, attack the body's own brain tissue. New therapys now available can attenuate the harmful immune reaction and thus delay the progress of the disease. However, the more effective the therapy, the more serious its side effects. Therefore, it is a matter of extreme urgency that new forms of therapy be developed which can differentiate in a targeted way between the immune cells that cause the disease and those that should be protected. A better understanding of the disease is mandatory in order to achieve this.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 11, 2009, 5:11 AM CT

Depressed mood may lead to premature birth

Depressed mood may lead to premature birth
Scientists trying to uncover why premature birth is a growing problem in the United States and one that disproportionately affects black women have observed that pre-pregnancy depressive mood may be a risk factor in preterm birth among both blacks and whites.

Black women, however, have nearly two times the odds of having a preterm birth in comparison to white women, as per Amelia Gavin, a University of Washington assistant professor of social work and main author of a newly released study that appears online in the recent issue of the Journal of Women's Health.

"Preterm births are one of the most significant health disparities in the United States and the overall number of these births increased from 10.6 percent in 2000 to 12.8 percent in 2005," she said.

While there may be some sort of link between giving birth prematurely and depressed mood, the study found no cause and effect, said Gavin, who studies health disparities. She believes the higher preterm birth rate among blacks appears to be the result of declining health over time among black women.

For this study, premature birth referred to any child born after less than 37 weeks of gestation. Normal gestation ranges from 38 to 42 weeks. Data for the study was drawn from a larger longitudinal investigation looking at the risks for cardiovascular disease among more than 5,000 young adults in four metropolitan areas. The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study also collected information about mental health and pregnancy outcomes. Between 1990 and 1996, 555 women in the larger study gave birth. These women were the subjects in the depression-premature birth study.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


June 11, 2009, 5:06 AM CT

Abnormal sleep pattern linked to weight gain

Abnormal sleep pattern linked to weight gain
Body Mass Index (BMI) varies as a function of habitual sleep duration, as per a research abstract that will be presented on Thursday, June 11, at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Results indicate that twins who slept between 7 and 8.9 hours each night had a lower mean BMI (25.0 kg/m2) in comparison to those who regularly slept either more (25.2 kg/m2) or less (26.4 kg/m2) per night. The relationship between sleep duration and BMI remained after controlling for genetics and shared environment.

As per the main author of the story, Nathaniel Watson, MD, co-director at the University of Washington Sleep Institute, in Seattle, sleep habits have a significant impact on weight and BMI.

"Findings of the study point towards an environmental cause of the relationship between sleep duration and BMI," said Watson. "Results were robust enough to be present when the sample was limited to identical twins."

The study included data from 1,797 twins, including 634 twin pairs (437 monozygotic, 150 dizygotic and 47 indeterminate pairs) and 529 individual twins with a mean age of 36.8. Habitual sleep duration was obtained by self-reported length of sleep per night and BMI was calculated by self-reported height and weight. Of the sample, 68.3 percent female, 88.2 percent were Caucasian. Results persisted in a co-twin control analysis of within twin pair differences in sleep duration and BMI.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


June 11, 2009, 5:03 AM CT

Snoring pregnant women

Snoring pregnant women
If you are pregnant and your mate complains your frequent snoring is rattling the bedroom windows, you may have bigger problems than an annoyed, sleep-deprived partner.

A newly released study from scientists at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has observed that women who reported frequent snoring during their pregnancy were more likely to develop gestational diabetes -- a condition than can cause health problems for the mother and baby. The study also found pregnancy increases the likelihood that a woman will snore.

This is the first study to report a link between snoring and gestational diabetes.

For the study, 189 healthy women completed a sleep survey at the time of enrollment (six to 20 weeks gestation) and in the third trimester.

Pregnant women who were frequent snorers had a 14.3 percent chance of developing gestational diabetes, while women who did not snore had a 3.3 percent chance. Even when scientists controlled for other factors that could contribute to gestational diabetes such as body mass index, age, race and ethnicity, frequent snoring was still.

linked to the disease.

Principal investigator Francesca Facco, M.D., a fellow at Northwestern's Feinberg School, will present her findings at the SLEEP 2009 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies June 11.........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


June 10, 2009, 9:46 PM CT

Four new targets for breast cancer

Four new targets for breast cancer
Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., is a professor and chair of M. D. Anderson's department of systems biology.

Credit: M. D. Anderson
Four suspects often found at the scene of the crime in cancer are guilty of the initiation and progression of breast cancer in mice that are resistant to the disease, a team led by researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center reports in the June edition of Cancer Cell

"We have a smoking gun" that shows it's no coincidence the three protein receptors and the enzyme that makes them are abnormally expressed in a number of types of cancer, said Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of M. D. Anderson's Department of Systems Biology and senior author of the paper.

"We've compiled lots of evidence that they are linked to cancer, what's been missing is proof that they could cause cancer," Mills said. "There are no questions left, they should be targeted."

The four are three lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) receptors (LPA1, LPA2, and LPA3) and the LPA-producing enzyme, autotaxin. "Lysophosphatidic acid", Mills said, "is the single most potent known cellular survival factor." LPA binds to a series of G protein-coupled receptors to spark normal cell proliferation, viability, production of growth factors and survival. The Cancer Cell paper shows this powerful network is hijacked to initiate breast cancer and fuel tumor growth, invasion and metastasis.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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